BELFAST— Where can you go to get French crêpes for breakfast, a locally grown microgreen Mediterranean salad with a small hummus pie for lunch, and the slow-cooked goodness of takeout Jamaican oxtail with extra gravy on the rice and peas for dinner?
The United Farmer’s Market in Belfast, an indoor year-round venue for 65 vendors (and growing), has builta reputation on offering international cuisine with its varied vendors. With a sunny, window-lined communal dining area, often accompanied by live piano music, this place is the ideal way to try flavors from around the world.
“We try to get as much diversity in the market as we can,” said Paul Naron. “We’re working on an application to get Indian takeout food in several weeks.”
Many of the vendors are Maine farmers and bakers who sell through farmer’s markets in the summertime and find a vibrant winter market here. A walk through the 30,000 square foot space finds more than just food vendors–but food is the reason we’re here.
Stone Fox Cold Creamery, run by Bruce and Kathy Chamberlin of Monroe, is known for their ice cream. But, what really draws customers in the wintertime, is their crêpes.
With a portable crêpe machine—a circular griddle— positioned on a side counter, Kathy whips up egg, bacon and cheese folding into the fresh, thin pancake off the griddle.
“I’m actually Italian,” she said. “My husband taught me how to make crêpes. We’ve been to Paris and saw how it was done.”
They offer sweet and savory crêpes every week with the above combination being the most popular.
“We have a mobile set-up and we go to farmer’s markets a lot, but this is primarily where we are for the winter,” she said.
Laan Xang Café is an authentic Laotian and Thai restaurant in historic downtown Belfast, owned by Salika and Dan Johnson.
Every Saturday, Salika sets up her booth and recreates multiple dishes from the restaurant for takeout. She makes her mother’s homemade sausage, a popular dish with customers of the United Farmer’s Market, served with steamed vegetables and a homemade chutney.
“After that, Drunken Noodles are probably my most popular takeout dish,” she said.
The menu is pretty consistent in the winter and Salika varies it up more toward summer.
Down several booths from Laan Xang Café, Steve Sleeper arranges his multi-shelved cold case of homemade Spinach Fatayer, Hummus, Baba Ghanoush, and for desserts, Baklava Lemon Ricotta Fritters.
He and his wife, Terri, own Mediterranean Cuisine, and each Saturday, they sell out of most of everything they make.
“My grandfather came from Lebanon 100 years ago and since I’ve been eating this kind of food my whole life, we decided to make a little business out of it,” he said.
The United Farmer’s Market in Belfast is their only winter venue; in the summer, they take their food to other various outdoor farmer’s markets.
“Our regular customers come back every week, so we provide something new for them every Saturday,” he said. “The newest thing we’re now offering are these microgreen salads, which we grow ourselves. The flavors are so intense and everything is vegetarian with a lot of vegan dishes. By summertime, we’ll also have gluten-free dishes, as well.”
How about a slice of Greek pizza for lunch?
Abraham’s Goat Farm and Pizzaria, run by Kaili Wardwell and Leslie and Lou Harris, from Newport, offers the deep dish flavors for only $2.50 a slice.
The Greek pizza is made with the farm’s own goat cheese feta, fresh tomatoes, red onions, and spinach.The farm and the pizzaria go together and are side by side at the Farmer’s Market.
“We come to the market every Saturday to add value to our farm,” said Kaili.
The Farmer’s Market is only open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., so while breakfast and lunch may be taken care of, there is still dinner to consider.
Jamaican Vybz, a Caribbean takeout restaurant in Bangor, owned by Pagiel Rose, has a booth next to Abraham’s and offers the kind of slow-cooked, fresh flavors one can only get in Jamaica.
That day, they were offering Brown-Stewed Chicken, Jerk Chicken, Curry Goat, redolent of hand-rubbed spices. Jamaican Beef handpies or patties sell for $2.50 each and are one of their more popular offerings.
Or circle around the world to back to Maine and stand before the fish case of Pemaquid Lobster and Seafood, owned by Tom and Traci Penniman of New Harbor.
Specializing in wild caught North Atlantic seafood and lobster, there was fresh haddock that day in the case, along with smelts.
“We would have had more this week, but the storms last week limited the catch,” said Del Paquin, who was running their booth. “Normally, we have Maine farmed Atalntic salmon, which happens to be on the ‘good’ list of Seafoodwatch.org.”
Smelts can be a delicacy if cooked right.
“You can split them, bread them and fry them up in a pan,” said Del.
Or take home their frozen haddock chowder and lobster mac and cheese, and grab a baguette from a local baker on your way out.
Take advantage of these slower Saturdays in the winter to sample food you’ve never tasted before and take a trip around the world in one afternoon with your fork.
The United Farmers Market of Maine is located at 18 Spring St, Belfast, ME. For more information, please call (207) 218-7005. Visit: https://www.belfastmarket.com/
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org